Warsaw #2: Warsaw Rising Museum and POLIN Museum


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Europe » Poland » Masovia » Warsaw
December 18th 2019
Published: May 9th 2020
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I had designated today as a museum day. My original plan was to do one walking tour and one museum on each of my two days in Warsaw, but since all museums are closed on Tuesdays, that plan was quickly scuppered. Both museums that I intended to visit were pretty far from, not only where I was staying, but also each other. Also, both museums had different opening times, which nicely helped with my planning. The Warsaw Rising Museum was open from 8 am to 6 pm and the POLIN Jewish museum was open from 10 am to 8 pm. Since I am not a morning person, there was no way that I would be at the first museum for it opening at 8 am, but I got there around 9:30, which I didn't think was too shabby. The walk there from my hostel took about 35 minutes and I enjoyed seeing more of Warsaw. The walk took me across the train lines and through what felt like a business district with lots of offices, I was actually surprised that the museum was located here.

The guard pointed me in the direction of the ticket office. The ticket was 25 zl and from there I headed to the main entrance of the museum. I had forgotten about the wonderful free cloakrooms that are provided in some parts of Europe and I happily dumped my coat with the attendant before heading to the first exhibition room. I loved the sign over the entrance way which contained this quote: 'We wanted to be free and owe this freedom to nobody". It was by Jan Stanisław Jankowski, who was a Polish politician and an important figure in the resistance of World War II. On 31st July 1944, he approved the decision to start the Warsaw Uprising. I can't remember all the different halls and their names (I am writing this up too long after the fact), but I was really impressed with the museum. It was extremely well done and there was a lot of information to take in. The Warsaw Uprising took place in August 1944. The guide yesterday had said about how in Poland they celebrated the Uprising even though it was a failure. They might not have succeeded, but the act of resistance and trying to overcome the Nazis is an important thing to remember and celebrate. Especially all those people who gave their lives in the hope of a better future free from the occupation of the Nazis. The aim of the uprising was to liberate Warsaw from German Occupation by the Polish Underground Resistance led by the Home Army. The uprising stated on 1st August 1944 and lasted until 2nd October 1944.

I walked from room to room in the museum. There was so much to take in, I loved all the old propaganda posters that were pasted onto the walls. There was also a bunker that you could go inside. I really liked reading about the insurgents and what they did during the uprising. There were a few short films to watch, too. The museum really highlighted the part that women played in the uprising and it was nice to see. I spent a good few hours in the museum and would happily go back again as there is only so much information I can retain and for only so long. There was also a cute old fashioned little cafe in the museum, where I took a break for a coffee and a cake. All in all, it was a really good museum that was very interesting and definitely a must visit in Warsaw to understand more about the city and wider country.

I had thought about having some lunch in between visiting the two museums, but my cake and coffee had filled me up nicely , so I decided just to walk to the POLIN Museum. The walk took me about 40 minutes and there really wasn't much to see on the way. The first part took me through more of the business district along busy roads. I then headed into a more residential area. There were lots of small rise Soviet looking blocks of flats. I wish there'd been some street art to look at, but there wasn't. I did come across one memorial, Zoska, for the Scouts' battalion of the Radoslaw unit, which on 5th August 1944 captured the German concentration camp Gesiowka and liberated 348348 Jewish prisoners of various European countries. Many of these later fought in the Warsaw Uprising. This monument was kind of like a bridge linking the two museum, the one I'd been to and the one I was on my way to.

My walk left me at the back of the POLIN Jewish History Museum and I made my way round to the front of this very impressive looking museum. I headed in and passed through a security check, it reminded me of China as it is common there. Then I headed over to the admission desk and bought a ticket, 32 zl, and dumped my coat. Then I headed down to the first of the eight exhibition halls. I loved how light, minimal and airy the museum was. The first gallery was entitled 'The Forest' and was a short introduction to the museum and how Jewish people came to Poland. The word 'polin' is Hebrew and means rest here. The name came from a Western European legend and arrived in Poland. The second gallery was called 'First Encounters' and this one was a lot bigger. It detailed the Jewish history of 960 to 1500. The first Jews to pass through Poland were travelling merchants and by the 19th century many had chosen to settle in Poland. There was a lot of information to take in and it was interesting to read about the first kahals (communities) that existed in Poland. The third exhibition hall was called 'Paradisus Iusaeorum', which was the period from 1569 to 1648. This exhibition explained about how the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became home to the largest Jewish community in the world and was a centre of Jewish civilisation. The Jewish people here had a degree of autonomy that was unheard of elsewhere. The huge interactive model of Krakow and Kazimierz was really good and it made me excited to visit Krakow. I was glad that I'd booked a walking tour of the Kazimierz to understand the roots of the Jewish community in the city. The fourth exhibition was 'The Jewish Town' and showed life up until 1772. The exhibitions showed what daily life was like and the central piece was the beautiful wooden synagogue. The synagogue faces east, towards Jerusalem and is covered with intricate artwork. It was really, really beautiful and I enjoyed looking at all the details and bright colours and animals on the artwork. I made my way through to the fifth gallery, 'Encounters with Modernity' which described Jewish history until 1914.Life changed not only for the Jewish community but the whole of society as Partitions occurred. Due to these changes Polish Jewish people became citizens of Austria, Russia and Prussia. It was interesting to read the different stories and I loved the old school dark, regalesque decor in the exhibition hall.

I was ravenous by this point and really, really thirsty, so I decided to take a break from the museum and headed up to the restaurant to get something to eat. I came to a little snack bar selling sandwiches and the like. I was content to eat there, but since there were no staff, I ended up giving up and heading into the adjacent restaurant. Since it was outside of normal eating hours the restaurant was pretty quiet. All the food is on display behind the counter, so you can see what takes your fancy and find out its name. I opted for the cabbage leaves stuffed with chicken, roast potatoes, and a side of red cabbage. All that cabbage probably wasn't a good idea for my digestive system, luckily I travel alone, so no one has to suffer it. The roast potatoes were really yummy, nothing fancy just legit, well done roasties. The red cabbage was really good and reminded me of Christmas dinners as that is a staple from my childhood. The stuffed cabbage leaves were also really good, I'd never had it with chicken before but it made a really good change. I think I could have happily slipped into a food coma. I managed to purchase a bottle of water at the snack shop as I was still really thirsty. I wish the museum had a water fountain so that I could have filled up my own bottle.

I headed back to the exhibition halls to continue my exploration of the museum. The next gallery was 'On the Jewish Street'. I really liked this as it was a mock-up of an old style street from the 1920s and 1930s. There was a lot of information to take in and I enjoyed reading about people's daily lives; where they lived and what they did in their free time. The next gallery was very emotionally heavy as it was dedicated to 'The Holocaust'. The guide on the walking tour the day before had said about how the Holocaust is always seen as the most important/defining moment of the Jewish people in Poland, but that the Jewish people have a much wider and deeper history, which the museum explores with its comprehensive exhibitions. In 1939, there were 3.5 million people of the Jewish faith in Poland. The exhibition chronicled how the Jews were dehumanised by the Nazi through humiliation, labelling, forced labour and separation, and finally the extermination camps. At the end of the war, there were only around 350,000 Jews left in Poland. 90% of the Jewish population had been killed. It's a truly shocking figure. The Jewish community did not rebuild itself to its prewar former self and although the Nazis had gone, they were replaced by the Soviets and Communists, who weer also anti-Semitic. Most Jews fled abroad to Israel or other countries. It really saddened me that one persecutor had been replaced by another. However, the final gallery, 'The Postwar Years' offered a glimmer of hope. The Jewish community in Poland may still be small, but they are rebuilding and growing. This museum encapsulates that.

I was exhausted by the time I had finished at the museum and I still had a long walk ahead of me. Luckily, much of the walk was the same route as I had taken the previous evening, so after the first part, I didn't have to pay attention to where I was going. I was going to get some dinner, but I was still so full after my late lunch, that I just picked up some bits and pieces at the convenience store. Back at my hostel, I collapsed on my bed and didn't move for about 90 minutes, my legs and feet didn't want to take another step. I, finally, dragged myself out of bed to make a late ish snack for dinner. I really enjoyed Warsaw and I would happily spend more time here, in my opinion, two days just wasn't long enough for the things I could see or do in the city.


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Warsaw Uprising Museum
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POLIN Museum
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POLIN Museum
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POLIN Museum
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POLIN Museum


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